If the Golden State Warriors win their second consecutive Larry O’Brien Trophy, one thing is certain: LeBron James should be named this year’s NBA Finals Most Valuable Player.
The series’ outcome should not dictate who should receive the award, which has been given to a player on a losing team just once in the Finals’ 67-year existence. Rather, it should live up to its name.
James is the most polarizing player in the league, and it would outrage many if he was awarded if the Warriors won. Despite the critics, his numbers cannot be detested.
With 181 points, James is ahead of the next closest scorer, teammate Kyrie Irving, by nearly 20 points. He also is in a tie for first in rebounds, has almost twice as many assists than any other player, averages 40 minutes per game and is shooting .514 from the field.
On the other side of the ball, James has the best defensive rating of any player averaging more than 15 minutes per game while guarding everyone from Stephen Curry to Draymond Green. He averages 2.7 steals per game, which is one more steal than any Warrior.
The only wrinkle James has in the series is his 26 turnovers through six games, which also happens to be a tie with Curry for most committed by any player.
There have been moments in the series where he has tried to play “hero ball” and has forced passes that are not there, leading to costly turnovers. This usually happens when he drives into the lane and the defense collapses on him. However, in Game Six, James turned the ball over just once compared to four steals.
Curry, who is a candidate to win the award if the Warriors clinch the seires, has the same amount of turnovers as James but has actually turned the ball over at a higher rate.
Curry is averaging nearly seven points and four assists fewer per game than James. He is also receiving more help than James on both sides of the ball — four of Curry’s teammates are scoring in double figures while Irving is James’ only teammate that has more than 10 points.
On defense, Curry is a liability and has only been tasked to guard Irving, who is one of the leading scorers in the series.
It would be unsurprising if the Warriors prevail and Curry wins MVP, as history has shown could happen. After all, Curry is one of the premier superstars in the league, but James’ play during the Finals has been otherworldly and should not be overlooked.